AFCON 2021: Ghana – Team guide, key players and full fixtures

All you need to know about the Black Stars of Ghana ahead of AFCON 2021.

AFCON 2021: Ghana – Team guide, key players and full fixtures

It feels like a real moment of reckoning is upon Ghanaian football just now. The generation that won the 2009 FIFA Under-20 World Cup has almost completely faded away, and now the Black Stars find themselves in a bit of a rebuild with some interesting young talent coming through, mostly in wide attacking areas.

Understandably then given the relative inexperience of the squad, qualification for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) was a tense, close-run thing. The group was a factor, of course: neither Sudan nor South Africa is a pushover, and the tussle for the two qualifying spots went down to the wire. In the end, Ghana came through in first place, their only defeat coming on the road against the Falcons.

They also came through World Cup qualifying in top spot, again pipping South Africa (that time on head-to-head) and won five of their 10 matches in 2021, losing only twice.

Per FIFA’s ranking for December 2021, Ghana are Africa’s eighth-best team and are 52nd in the world.

The Black Stars are a powerhouse of African football, even though their light waned significantly following their most recent AFCON win in 1982. In all, Ghana have won the competition four times and have played in the final a further five times, which is the most any one nation has been denied at that stage. Only Egypt and Nigeria have reached more semi-finals.

Serb Milovan Rajevac, who led Ghana to a quarter-final place at the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations, is back in charge. Whether his more stolid approach is the best fit for a crop of young attacking talent remains to be seen, but he will at least get them more organised – in a possession-based 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 – than they were under previous boss CK Akonnor.

While it is difficult to tell where this team is at in its evolution just now, their ultimate destiny in Cameroon and beyond depends a lot on the form of Thomas Partey. The Arsenal midfielder plays a more expansive role for Ghana than he does at club level, showcasing his dynamism and ball-carrying far more readily while retaining his progressive passing and penchant for long-range shots.

Remarkably, Andre Ayew is still going strong, and will no doubt be entrusted with the team’s creative burden whether starting on the right, cutting in or in a more central position. If it is the latter, he will likely play alongside Mohammed Kudus as the other advanced central midfielder. The Ajax man is a doubt still due to injury, but if fit he would give Ghana an even more incisive aspect.

Kamaldeen Sulemana is a delight to watch, with his speed, dribbling ability and bags of flair. The 19-year-old will relish going up against just about any full-back at the AFCON, and is likely to start on the left, although he can play on either side. If he brings goals as well, Ghana could be in business

Jojo Wollacott; Andy Yiadom, Alexander Djiku, Jonathan Mensah, Baba Rahman; Mubarak Wakaso, Thomas Partey, Andre Ayew; Abdul Fatawu Issahaku, Jordan Ayew, Kamaldeen Sulemana.

A kind draw means Ghana are massive favourites to emerge from Group C, and a kind draw could carry them through to the Semi-finals without facing any of the big guns if they finish second. However, this is very much a team in its building phase, and so they are just as likely to get caught cold by a team they should be beating.

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